After a some time away, The Holocaust Reader returns with a news of new titles related to the Holocaust, published in the UK and US in October and November 2020.
Invisible Ink: A Memoir by Guy Stern
From the publisher, Wayne State University Press:
Invisible Ink is the story of Guy Stern’s remarkable life. This is not a Holocaust memoir; however, Stern makes it clear that the horrors of the Holocaust and his remarkable escape from Nazi Germany created the central driving force for the rest of his life. Stern gives much credit to his father’s profound cautionary words, “You have to be like invisible ink. You will leave traces of your existence when, in better times, we can emerge again and show ourselves as the individuals we are.” Stern carried these words and their psychological impact for much of his life, shaping himself around them, until his emergence as someone who would be visible to thousands over the years. This book is divided into thirteen chapters, each marking a pivotal moment in Stern’s life. His story begins with Stern’s parents-“the two met, or else this chronicle would not have seen the light of day (nor me, for that matter).” Then, in 1933, the Nazis come to power, ushering in a fiery and destructive timeline that Stern recollects by exact dates and calls “the end of [his] childhood and adolescence.” Through a series of fortunate occurrences, Stern immigrated to the United States at the tender age of fifteen. While attending St. Louis University, Stern was drafted into the U.S. Army and soon found himself selected, along with other German-speaking immigrants, for a special military intelligence unit that would come to be known as the Ritchie Boys (named so because their training took place at Ft. Ritchie, MD). Their primary job was to interrogate Nazi prisoners, often on the front lines. Although his family did not survive the war (the details of which the reader is spared), Stern did. He has gone on to have a long and illustrious career as a scholar, author, husband and father, mentor, decorated veteran, and friend. Invisible Ink is a story that will have a lasting impact. If one can name a singular characteristic that gives Stern strength time after time, it is his resolute determination to persevere. To that end Stern’s memoir provides hope, strength, and graciousness in times of uncertainty.
Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself by Florian Huber
From the publisher, Penguin Books:
One of the least understood stories of the Third Reich is that of the extraordinary wave of suicides, carried out not just by much of the Nazi leadership, but also by thousands of ordinary Germans, during in the war’s closing period. Some of these were provoked by straightforward terror in the face of advancing Soviet troops or by personal guilt, but many could not be explained in such relatively straightforward terms.
Florian Huber’s remarkable book, a bestseller in Germany, confronts this terrible phenomenon. Other countries have suffered defeat, but not responded in the same way. What drove whole families, who in many cases had already withstood years of deprivation, aerial bombing and deaths in battle, to do this?
In a brilliantly written, thoughtful and original work, Huber sees the entire project of the Third Reich as a sequence of almost overwhelming emotions and scenes for many Germans. He describes some of the key events which shaped the period from the First World War to the end of the Second, showing how the sheer intensity, allure and ferocity of Hitler’s regime swept along millions. Its sudden end was, for many of them, simply impossible to absorb.
You can read a review by Sir Richard J Evans of the hardback release of this book here.
The Soul of Things by Eva Fahidi
From the publisher, University of Toronto Press:
An exceptional document of an extraordinary life, The Soul of Things is the memoir of Holocaust survivor Eva Fahidi. Since the memoir was first published in Hungarian in 2004 under the title Anima Rerum, Fahidi has become a household name in Hungary and in Germany. Featured in countless interviews and several prize-winning documentary films, at the age of ninety-five she is a frequent speaker at Holocaust commemorations in Hungary, Germany, and elsewhere. The Soul of Things combines a rare depiction of upper-middle-class Jewish life in pre-war Hungary with the chronicle of a woman’s deportation and survival in the camps. Fahidi is a gifted writer with a unique voice, full of wisdom, humanity, and flashes of dark humour. With an unsentimental, philosophical perspective, she recounts her journey from the Great Hungarian Plain to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the forced labour camp of Munchmuhle, and back. The English edition includes a new introduction by historians Eva Kovacs and Judith Szapor, the original prefaces to the Hungarian and German editions, an essay on the Munchmule Camp by Fritz Brinkman-Frisch, and extensive notes providing historical and cultural context for Fahidi’s narrative.
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Grief by David Shneer
From the publisher, Oxford University Press:
In January 1942, Soviet press photographers came upon a scene like none they had ever documented. That day, they took pictures of the first liberation of a German mass atrocity, where an estimated 7,000 Jews and others were executed at an anti-tank trench near Kerch on the Crimean peninsula. Dmitri Baltermants, a photojournalist working for the Soviet newspaper Izvestiia, took photos that day that would have a long life in shaping the image of Nazi genocide in and against the Soviet Union. Presenting never before seen photographs, Grief: The Biography of a Holocaust Photograph shows how Baltermants used the image of a grieving woman to render this gruesome mass atrocity into a transcendentally human tragedy. David Shneer tells the story of how that one photograph from the series Baltermants took that day in 1942 near Kerch became much more widely known than the others, eventually being titled “Grief.” Baltermants turned this shocking wartime atrocity photograph into a Cold War era artistic meditation on the profundity and horror of war that today can be found in Holocaust photo archives as well as in art museums and at art auctions. Although the journalist documented murdered Jews in other pictures he took at Kerch, in “Grief” there are likely no Jews among the dead or the living, save for the possible NKVD soldier securing the site. Nonetheless, Shneer shows that this photograph must be seen as an iconic Holocaust photograph. Unlike images of emaciated camp survivors or barbed wire fences, Shneer argues, the Holocaust by bullets in the Soviet Union make “Grief” a quintessential Soviet image of Nazi genocide.
Odilo Globocnik: The Devil’s Accomplice by Max Williams
From the publisher, Fonthill Media:
Outside of the Nazi hierarchy, Odilo Globocnik is almost certainly the most culpable in the planned and almost successfully executed attempt to annihilate all the Jews of Europe. In producing this book, the author was soon to discover several interesting facets to the history of this unsavory character. Not only did he play a leading role in the process of murdering the Jews, he was also the arch highwayman in the plunder of their possessions. Additionally, he was responsible for the compulsory uprooting of thousands of Polish non-Jewish citizens, the destruction of their communities, and the trafficking of enforced slave laborers. Often justifiably vilified for his crooked dealings as Gauleiter of Vienna, his function as asset stripper of the Polish Jews is overshadowed by his unquestionable major role in their physical destruction. The ultimate crime of mass murder far outweighs the less significant, but nevertheless considerable, offenses of robbery and human trafficking, for obvious reasons. Odilo Globocnik was guilty of them all.
Charlotte Salomon: Colours of the Soul by Gian Marco De Francisco and Ilaria Ferramosca
From the publisher, Fanfare:
This is a poignant and graphic telling of the life of a young German Jewish woman taken and killed during the holocaust. Charlotte Salomon (Berlin, 16/04/17 – Auschwitz, 10/10/43) was an artist from a prosperous family whose mother committed suicide when she was just nine-years-old. One of several suicides within her family. She attended the School for Pure and Applied Arts until 1938 when the increasing antisemitic policies caused her to escape to the south of France to live with her grandparents. It was not the best of times. In 1941, now living alone she began painting what became over 1000 gouaches which she edited and added captions and overlays to create her life’s work ‘Leben? Oder Theater?’ consisting of 769 of the paintings depicting a somewhat fantastical autobiography preserving the main elements of her life. She also made notes on appropriate music to accompany the art. In 1943 she handed the work over to the local doctor in a large suitcase with the wish that he “Keep this safe, it is my whole life.” She had addressed it to wealthy American, Ottillie Moore in whose property she had stayed. By September that year she had married another German Jewish refugee, Alexander Nagler, and the two of them were arrested and she was transported to Auschwitz to the gas chambers when five months pregnant.
Hitler and Stalin: The Tyrants and the Second World War by Laurence Rees
From the publisher, Penguin Books:
This compelling book on Hitler and Stalin – the culmination of thirty years’ work – examines the two tyrants during the Second World War, when Germany and the Soviet Union fought the biggest and bloodiest war in history. Yet despite the fact they were bitter opponents, Laurence Rees shows that Hitler and Stalin were, to a large extent, different sides of the same coin.
Hitler’s charismatic leadership may contrast with Stalin’s regimented rule by fear; and his intransigence later in the war may contrast with Stalin’s change in behaviour in response to events. But at a macro level, both were prepared to create undreamt-of suffering, destroy individual liberty and twist facts in order to build the utopias they wanted, and while Hitler’s creation of the Holocaust remains a singular crime, Rees shows why we must not forget that Stalin committed a series of atrocities at the same time.
Using previously unpublished, startling eyewitness testimony from soldiers of the Red Army and Wehrmacht, civilians who suffered during the conflict and those who knew both men personally, bestselling historian Laurence Rees – probably the only person alive who has met Germans who worked for Hitler and Russians who worked for Stalin – challenges long-held popular misconceptions about two of the most important figures in history. This is a master work from one of our finest historians.
Return to the Reich by Eric Lichtblau
From the publisher, Houghton Miflin Harcourt:
The remarkable story of Fred Mayer, a German-born Jew who escaped Nazi Germany only to return as an American commando on a secret mission behind enemy lines. Growing up in Germany, Freddy Mayer witnessed the Nazis’ rise to power. When he was sixteen, his family made the decision to flee to the United States – they were among the last German Jews to escape, in 1938. In America, Freddy tried enlisting the day after Pearl Harbor, only to be rejected as an “enemy alien” because he was German. He was soon recruited to the OSS, the country’s first spy outfit before the CIA. Freddy, joined by Dutch Jewish refugee Hans Wynberg and Nazi defector Franz Weber, parachuted into Austria as the leader of Operation Greenup, meant to deter Hitler’s last stand. He posed as a Nazi officer and a French POW for months, dispatching reports to the OSS via Hans, holed up with a radio in a nearby attic. The reports contained a gold mine of information, provided key intelligence about the Battle of the Bulge, and allowed the Allies to bomb twenty Nazi trains. On the verge of the Allied victory, Freddy was captured by the Gestapo and tortured and waterboarded for days. Remarkably, he persuaded the region’s Nazi commander to surrender, completing one of the most successful OSS missions of the war. Based on years of research and interviews with Mayer himself, whom the author was able to meet only months before his death at the age of ninety-four, Return to the Reich is an eye-opening, unforgettable narrative of World War II heroism. AUTHOR: Eric Lichtblau, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the best-selling author of The Nazis Next Door and Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice. He was a Washington reporter for the New York Times for fifteen years, while also writing for the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, TIME, and other publications. He has been a frequent guest on NPR, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and other networks, as well as a speaker at many universities and institutions. He lives outside Washington, D.C.
The Yiddish Historians and the Struggle for a Jewish History of the Holocaust by Mark L Smith
From the publisher, Wayne State University Press:
The Yiddish Historians and the Struggle for a Jewish History of the Holocaust identifies the Yiddish historians who created a distinctively Jewish approach to writing Holocaust history in the early years following World War II. Author Mark L. Smith explains that these scholars survived the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe, yet they have not previously been recognized as a specific group who were united by a common research agenda and a commitment to sharing their work with the worldwide community of Yiddish-speaking survivors.
These Yiddish historians studied the history of the Holocaust from the perspective of its Jewish victims, focusing on the internal aspects of daily life in the ghettos and camps under Nazi occupation and stressing the importance of relying on Jewish sources and the urgency of collecting survivor testimonies, eyewitness accounts, and memoirs. With an aim to dispel the accusations of cowardice and passivity that arose against the Jewish victims of Nazism, these historians created both a vigorous defense and also a daring offense. They understood that most of those who survived did so because they had engaged in a daily struggle against conditions imposed by the Nazis to hasten their deaths. The redemption of Jewish honor through this recognition is the most innovative contribution by the Yiddish historians. It is the area in which they most influenced the research agendas of nearly all subsequent scholars while also disturbing certain accepted truths, including the beliefs that the earliest Holocaust research focused on the Nazi perpetrators, that research on the victims commenced only in the early 1960s and that Holocaust study developed as an academic discipline separate from Jewish history. Now, with writings in Yiddish journals and books in Europe, Israel, and North and South America having been recovered, listed, and given careful discussion, former ideas must yield before the Yiddish historians’ published works. The Yiddish Historians and the Struggle for a Jewish History of the Holocaust is an eye-opening monograph that will appeal to Holocaust and Jewish studies scholars, students, and general readers.
Trawniki Guards: Footsoldiers of the Holocaust by Josh Baldwin
From the publisher, Schiffer Publishing:
This is a study of some of the rank-and-file men, the foot soldiers, who carried out the “Final Solution.” The Trawniki concentration camp in Poland was used by the SS to train more than 5,000 men in the execution of mass murder. Of these 5,000, most were eastern Europeans recruited from POW camps, including a large Ukrainian contingent. “Trawnikis” were distributed throughout the concentration camp system, with particular prominence in the extermination camps of Aktion Reinhard. Trawnikis formed the firing squads during Ghetto liquidations, operated gas chambers, and carried out various other violent tasks deemed burdensome by German planners. This book will explore who these men were, and give a face to those faceless enforcers of the Holocaust.
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Inclusion of titles on this list does not represent endorsement of their contents.